August 27, 2013

Cabinet To Meet Over Makerere Closure

Cabinet is set to meet on Wednesday to discuss the on-going crisis at Makerere University, two weeks after the institution was closed.

The cabinet meeting comes after the University Council recommended that government intervenes to handle continued demands by lecturers for a 100% salary increment.

Cabinet is set to meet on Wednesday to discuss the on-going crisis at Makerere University.
Cabinet is set to meet on Wednesday to discuss the on-going crisis at Makerere University.

Jessica Alupo, the Education Minister confirmed Monday evening that cabinet will meet over the Makerere situation on Wednesday with the hope of finding a possible resolution to the lecturers’ demands.

Makerere, Uganda’s oldest and biggest university was closed on August 14 just three days before the opening of the 2013/2014 academic year. The lecturers under their umbrella Makerere University Academic Staff Association—MUASA vowed not to resume teaching unless a 100% pay rise is granted.

The move forced the Council chairperson Dr Wana Etyem to hurriedly close the institution before students reported to allow the two sides negotiate their way out of the stand-off.

Out of the many meetings held between lecturers’ representatives, the University Council and officials from the Ministry of Education, a committee was set up to review the university budget and identify areas from where money could be got to pay lecturers.

According to Muhammed Kiggundu, the MUASA chairperson, the committee managed to find a 60% increment for senior staff and 50% and 30% for assistant lecturers and support staff respectively. The deal was however rejected by MUASA members who insisted on the 100%.

Kiggundu who attended the negotiations yesterday told local media that they are hopeful a resolution will be reached and the university opened soon. He however declined to divulge details of the discussions.

MUASA has been consistent in their demand for a 100% salary increment citing the large resource envelope of Makerere University. However, the university secretary David Kahundha Muhwezi has also earlier remarked that the university is hugely indebted to a tune of 67 billion shillings and thus cannot raise its expenditure.

On Friday, council resolved to form a committee to look at the university budget with a view of rechanneling the money towards the wage bill. The committee has however only found 20 billion shillings to add to the wage bill.

The academic year of Makerere was set to commence on Saturday August 17 with the orientation of fresh students for a week, but this has not come to pass as the university remains closed two weeks later.

In the early days of the stand-off, government officials were talking tough with Minister Alupo giving an ultimatum of two weeks for the university to reopen.

President Museveni at a function in Mpigi just a day after Makerere’s closure also sounded tough, telling lecturers to go and rear goats if they did not want to work under the current conditions. The deadline set by the Education Minister for the re-opening of the university expires this week.

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